Almost half of eligible SC workers are not seeking jobs

A photo of a ‘now hiring’ sign at a career fair.

A photo of a ‘now hiring’ sign at a career fair.


Almost half of unemployed South Carolinians eligible to work aren’t seeking jobs and a recent state survey might explain why.


November employment statistics show that 43.6% of South Carolina’s eligible labor force is unemployed and not actively searching for work, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce announced on Friday. The latest statistics come after a state survey unveiled in September revealed reasons why many South Carolinians have given up finding work — issues ranging from low pay to lack of transportation.

“… the state’s labor force participation rate of 56.4% continues to have our agency’s attention,” Dan Ellzey, executive director for the department, said in a Friday press release.

The nation currently has a 62% labor force participation rate.

Meanwhile, there are more than 100,000 open jobs across South Carolina, statistics show. And this is all while the state boasts a record low 3.3% unemployment rate. However, the unemployment rate only counts residents who are actively seeking work.

“Opportunities are available in manufacturing, construction, retail, transportation, warehousing, hospitality, restaurants, healthcare, business, I.T., and more,” Ellzey said. “Hourly wages continue to rise, with increases of 3% since January and 13.7% since the start of the pandemic, and many businesses are willing to train on the job.”

A survey commissioned by the department and unveiled in September, could shed some light on why some South Carolinians aren’t seeking work. The point of the survey was, in part, to identify those residents who were not working and the barriers that preventing them from getting jobs.

More than 6,000 people responded to the survey, which focused on residents employed in the state in 2019 who filed in 2020 for unemployment and were later not present in the state’s 2021 wage data.

Of the people who responded to the survey, about 28% said they were not working but could work.

The survey showed that current work status was not consistent across demographic groups, with higher percentages of women, Black residents, those with less than a college degree and rural counties in the not working but available to work category.

Here are the top five reasons listed as barriers to working in the state across all demographic groups.

  • Lack of good paying jobs
  • Gaps in employment history
  • More optimal working hours
  • Lack of transportation
  • Disabilities

The survey suggests that better paying jobs, work closer to home and more flexible work hours would get more people back to work. Work closer to home was particularly critical for those in the most rural counties, the survey notes.

The survey also suggests that better communication and opportunities for work, along with efforts toward providing better child care and transportation for certain demographics, would have a substantial impact on getting people back to work.

Patrick McCreless is the service journalism editor for The State, where he and a team of reporters write about trending news of the day and topics that help readers in their daily lives and better informs them about their communities. He attended Jacksonville State University in Alabama and grew up in Tuscaloosa, AL.

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Almost half of eligible SC workers are not seeking jobs


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